Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming, Belmont Stakes (G1) victor Tapwrit and Curlin Stakes hero Outplay are all still under consideration for the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) on August 26 at Saratoga following breezes on Friday, according to trainer Todd Pletcher.
Always Dreaming and Outplay worked in company, with the former clocking a half-mile in :48.83 over Saratoga’s fast Oklahoma training track and Outplay being credited with an official time of :49. The pair were caught going :25.20 for the first quarter and galloping out five furlongs in 1:01.80.
The move was the first for Always Dreaming since his fading third-place effort in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) on July 29. That contest came following a break after the Bodemesiter colt’s only unplaced run to date when finishing eighth in the Preakness Stakes (G1) on May 20 at Pimlico.
Always Dreaming had regular rider John Velazquez aboard for Friday’s move while Outplay, last seen wiring the nine-furlong Curlin by 5 3/4 lengths on July 28, was piloted by Javier Castellano.
“I thought both horses worked very well,” Pletcher said. “I was very happy with the way Always Dreaming settled nicely and relaxed early. It was an excellent work from both horses.
“Both of them worked well enough to come back and work next week and see how they continue to prepare,” he added. “But I think the Travers is very much in play for both of them and Tapwrit, also.”
Always Dreaming was working in company for the first time since his Preakness run.
“All of his works after the Preakness were by himself and I wanted to see where we were in terms of how the race settled him down and how he was going to respond to being in company,” Pletcher explained. “I thought he rated very kindly. Johnny (Velazquez) said he was very agreeable with whatever he asked him to do.”
Velazquez indicated Always Dreaming showed improvement over his last work, a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.72 over the Oklahoma training track on July 22.
“He was so much better; he allowed me to get him up to the other horse,” Velazquez said. “He normally would be fighting me to there, (but) he was really good. It went very nice. He galloped out very good.
“The plan was for me to stay a little bit off him and give my horse a bit of a chance,” he added. “Separately, we jogged him, and I let (Outplay) start out in front, he got a little too strong, but as soon as he started picking up in front of me, he came back to me and I had him.
“I didn’t think it was going to work out but it did. I’m very happy with it. I like the way he did it. He actually settled the first part, so that’s the most important thing.”
Pletcher was also pleased with Outplay’s effort as well.
“I thought Outplay worked well also; a good solid, steady work. It seems like he came out of the Curlin in good order,” he said.
“He rated beautiful and we hooked up both those two at the top of the lane,” Castellano praised Outplay. “They both finished really, really well. I like the way he did it.”
Tapwrit, who hasn’t competed since capturing the Belmont Stakes by two lengths on June 10, also worked in company earlier over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track.
The gray son of Tapit had regular jockey Jose Ortiz in the irons and breezed five furlongs in 1:01.22 accompanied by an Uncle Mo juvenile colt.
“I thought he did great,” Pletcher said. “He worked 1:01 and change but more importantly than that, I thought he galloped out fantastic, going 1:27 and change for the seven-eighths, pulled up the mile in 1:42. (His) fitness level was very good; it seemed like he was doing it easily in hand. I was very happy with it.”
Pletcher added that Belmont Stakes third-placer Patch was unlikely for the Travers following his fourth in the August 5 West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer Park.
“It’s back in three weeks. I would say it’s unlikely but we’ll continue to see how things unfold here,” the conditioner explained.